20 September 2011
NEW YORK, NY — Jane Dai held up the last picture that was taken of her family together. Her one-year-old daughter smiles in between her and her husband, who was arrested, tortured by electric shock and killed by Chinese authorities at age 34 for practicing the spiritual exercise known as falun gong.
Dozens of falun gong practitioners and persecution victims attended a press conference today in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at the United Nations to urge South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak to stop deporting falun gong asylum-seekers. Since 1999, the Chinese Communist government has arrested and tortured hundreds of thousands of practitioners, and nearly 4,000 have been killed.
According to the Falun Dafa Information Center, the South Korean government has sent 10 falun gong refugees back to China, and denied asylum to the 56 who have applied. “These people risk death by being deported,” Dai said. “I don’t want more people to end up like my husband.”
Dai and her husband became practitioners after her father-in-law was cured from kidney failure through his falun gong exercises. “My husband was arrested and killed in 2001 for handing a letter to the government that simply stated, ‘falun gong is good,’” she said. Two months later, Dai’s father-in-law who had been cured by the same practice, died from grief over the loss of his son.
Practitioners sat on mats in 3 long rows, cross-legged and holding their hands together, palms inward. At times they closed their eyes while they listened to speakers, emanating a sense of peace. Banners stretched above their bowed heads stated, “Stop genocide in China!”
Falun gong is an ancient spiritual practice that has been practiced privately in Chinese homes for a thousand years. The exercise, which incorporates teachings of Buddhism and Taoism and helps energize the body and mind, was reborn in the 1990s when founder Li Hongzhi aimed to bring its teachings to the rest of the world.
“[B]efore the persecution, all mainstream society would take part in this exercise,” Dai said. “Even communist officials would practice it – professional people all did it. It was all over college campuses.”
The Chinese regime grew wary of falun gong’s growing popularity and its independence from government when, in 1999, it banned the practice. “The Chinese government is fearful of falun gong because it upholds the principle of truth,” said practitioner Lucio Armellin. “A regime like the Chinese government cannot exist if the truth is exposed.”
Asylum deportations fall under South Korean law, but many human-rights groups and falun gong practitioners say it is a violation of international law and basic human rights.
Dai was not the only widow present at the conference. Muluan Luo, 60, and her husband had escaped to Thailand in 2005 after experiencing persecution. “In 2006, the U.S. offered us refugee asylum,” Luo said. “Very soon after, my husband was killed in a so-called ‘car accident’ that was plotted by the Chinese government, before we could move there.”
Nadia Ghattas, though not Chinese-born, has become involved with the New York falun gong community, which can be found in various parks throughout the city. She explained that its focus is on truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance.
“The more I hang around the Chinese, the more I feel I have a connection with them,” Ghattas said. “If there’s harmony within yourself, there’s harmony around you, which ultimately leads to peace.”
In between speakers, the practitioners demonstrated the 8 round, slow movements that define this meditative exercise in unity.
New York Falun Dafa Association representative Dr. Wenyi Wang smiled as she recalled a time before persecution. “In my hometown of Changchun, 5,000 people would come together in a big park to practice these movements,” she said. “It was a beautiful sight.”